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Tree felling for highway: Meghalaya High Court forms 5-member committee to look into PIL

The issue involved in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Kaustav Paul revolves around cutting/felling of trees (some of which are of considerable heritage) for the purpose of widening of National Highway 40, which connects Shillong to Dawki, particularly in the vicinity of the Eastern Air Command.

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The Meghalaya High Court on Wednesday constituted a five-member High Powered Committee (HPC) for looking into the grievance regarding cutting/felling of trees for widening the National Highway 40.

The issue involved in the PIL filed by Kaustav Paul revolves around cutting/felling of trees (some of which are of considerable heritage) for the purpose of widening of National Highway 40, which connects Shillong to Dawki, particularly in the vicinity of the Eastern Air Command. 

The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice H.S. Thangkhiew held, “Issue concerns public interest at large, before we proceed to make any observation or pass any final order, a 5 (five) member High Powered Committee (HPC) is hereby constituted, which will look into the specific grievances as sought to be highlighted in the instant PIL.”

It was directed by the Court that a comprehensive report shall be submitted by the HPC on the next date, after conducting a thorough and detailed enquiry with regard to the issue as highlighted and upon inspection of the actual site. 

Further the Court clarified that it will be open to the HPC to suggest before to the High Court viable means to resolve the highlighted issue raised in the  PIL without compromising either with conservation of the trees (some of which are of considerable heritage) and environment on one hand and development/expansion of the road project on the other. 

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The High Powered Committee shall constitute of the following members:- 

  1. Amit Kumar, learned Advocate General; 
  1. Kaustav Paul, learned Senior Advocate, who is appearing in-person in the instant PIL;
  1. A representative of the Forests & Environment Department, Government of Meghalaya at Shillong; 
  1. A representative of respondent No.10, namely, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd.; and 
  1. A member of general public, namely, Shri Jiwat Vaswani @ Bablu. 

The Court has posted the matter after three weeks for further consideration.

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